Public Health Monopoly Meets COVID Booster Shots

I work in health care, but have no worked-out view on the political economy of health care. In fact, part of the reason I accepted the (full time) job I currently have, in hospital revenue cycle management, is to clarify my thoughts on that very subject. So I’m open to being schooled on issues in health care by anyone willing and able to do so–a category that probably includes a very large number of people. For the time being, I’m willing to remain at least temporarily in a state of curmudgeonly skepticism, willing to take pot shots at almost everyone, but unwilling to pledge allegiance to much of anything. You might regard that as a frivolous position to take, considering the stakes involved. But I don’t.

Since I’m going to be writing here at PoT about health care a fair bit in the near future (I’ve done some already), take what I say in the preceding skeptical (or dialectical) spirit. My aim is, through discussion and experience, to work my way from skepticism to something more definite.

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Robert Hollander, RIP

Robert Hollander passed away on April 20th of this year, but having just learned the news about a week ago, I wanted, however belatedly, to mark the event. From the official announcement by Princeton University’s Office of Communications:

Robert Hollander, professor of European literature, and French and Italian, emeritus, and renowned scholar of Dante, died peacefully of natural causes at his family’s home in Pau’uilo, Hawaii on April 20. He was 87.

Hollander joined Princeton’s faculty in 1962 and transferred to emeritus status in 2003. His teaching and research centered on medieval Italian literature, with a focus on the work of Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio.* 

I took the two-semester “Great Books” course in literature that Hollander co-taught at Princeton in the late 1980s, and it changed my life. The first semester covered Greek and Roman classics, plus the Bible; the second semester began with Dante’s Inferno and ended with Dostoevsky’s The Idiot. I still own the very texts I bought for the course thirty years ago; every work retains its poignancy, and is still in some way indelibly imprinted on my mind.

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200ProofMath

The latest thinking on economic justice, care of 200ProofLiberals, by Christopher Freiman. Worth comparing and contrasting with our own recent discussions of labor-management relations here at PoT.

Marx writes, “In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, herdsman or critic.”

However, by making you significantly richer, a capitalist society does a much better job of enabling you to hunt in the morning and criticize after dinner than a non-capitalist society. Ironically, though, you have to cut way back on your consumption to make this happen. But if you’re willing to save 50-70 percent of your income, there’s a good chance you can retire in your 30s or 40s and spend your time doing whatever you want. So capitalism allows you to achieve the flexibility that Marx dreams of—you just need to buy a lot less (which, if you reject consumer culture, should be pretty easy) and save a lot more.

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Tragedy, Catharsis, and Explanation

In the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Aristotle’s Poetics, Joe Sachs writes (italics mine):

Because the suffering of the tragic figure displays the boundaries of what is human, every tragedy carries the sense of universality. Oedipus or Antigone or Lear or Othello is somehow every one of us, only more so. But the mere mention of these names makes it obvious that they are not generalized characters, but altogether particular. And if we did not feel that they were genuine individuals, they would have no power to engage our emotions. It is by their particularity that they make their marks on us, as though we had encountered them in the flesh. It is only through the particularity of our feelings that our bonds with them emerge. What we care for and cherish makes us pity them and fear for them, and thereby the reverse also happens: our feelings of pity and fear make us recognize what we care for and cherish. When the tragic figure is destroyed it is a piece of ourselves that is lost. Yet we never feel desolation at the end of a tragedy, because what is lost is also, by the very same means, found. I am not trying to make a paradox, but to describe a marvel. It is not so strange that we learn the worth of something by losing it; what is astonishing is what the tragedians are able to achieve by making use of that common experience. They lift it up into a state of wonder.

Though Sachs disclaims the desire to make a paradox, I find his claim curious–neither obviously false nor obviously true, but puzzling to the point of inducing a bit of wonderment. I’m interested to hear what readers think.

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Reason Papers Vol. 42:1 Out

The most recent issue of Reason Papers is out (Summer 2021), now fully under the editorship of Shawn Klein (Philosophy, Arizona State University). The journal has transitioned to a new format of only publishing symposia and book reviews, eliminating the free-standing Articles and Discussion Notes that were once a staple.

This issue features a symposium on Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl’s The Realist Turn: Repositioning Liberalism, with contributions by David Kelley, Aeon Skoble, Timothy Sandefur, Paul Gaffney, and Lauren Hall, and a response by Rassmussen and Den Uyl. Also includes reviews of Eric Mack’s Libertarianism, and Marc Champagne’s Myth, Meaning, and Antifragile Individualism: On the Ideas of Jordan Peterson. Links to the issue below the fold.

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What to the Palestinian is the Fourth of July?

Barely a word about this in the mainstream American media. Barely a word about it from libertarian defenders of property rights. But lots of caterwauling about “cancel culture” and Critical Race Theory, and lots of empty rhetoric about the “freedom” we brought the world with the Revolution of 1776.*

Israel has sent demolition notices to residents of about 100 homes in Silwan, warning their abodes–housing more than 1,500 people–are to be destroyed.

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Too Much Time on Their Hands: The Underemployment of Our Managerial Class

I keep hearing hand-waving stories from right-leaning members of our managerial class about how unemployment benefits are dampening the desire to work among rank-and-file workers. Let me give you a small glimpse into the work ethic of this same managerial class in my own case. I’ll leave you to decide, at least in this case, whose work ethic could use some improvement.

I’ve been writing here since October about the eight month gig I recently did working full time for Operating Room Environmental Services (OR EVS) at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, New Jersey. About seven weeks ago, I gave notice at the hospital, telling both Surgical Services and HR that I would continue to work at HMC’s OR once a month as a per diem worker at the same rate as I’d earned before. They were delighted to hear it; OR EVS has been decimated by turnover, and was practically dying for weekend coverage. I could easily have insisted on a raise, but didn’t. This, by the way, for an institution that failed to give me bereavement leave after the unexpected death of my wife in March.

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Barbara Gordon: A Life Lived in Song

This is a memorial essay for Barbara Gordon, written by my friend Yvonne Raley, formerly Associate Professor of Philosophy at Felician University.

The sound of your voice will always be with me, Barbara, my beloved and loyal friend, my teacher of song. I am so grateful to have been graced with your presence for 27 years of my life, and so torn apart by your untimely death.

I knew you as delicate and fragile in many ways, and yet you were mighty, a true force that would fill people’s hearts with music and joy. I will never forget how you grilled me before taking me on as your student, to make sure I had enough dedication, because you would accept nothing less. I finally won you over with our shared love for Debussy and my ability to speak French, and so in 1994 I became your tutee Friday mornings at NYU, and a couple of years later at your home where I became part of your extended family: I stood next to the piano and practiced as Josh graduated high school and Ellie graduated college, got married and had kids of her own. I met Josh’s cat Milo who loved your yard, and I shared a memorable Seder with you. Not only did you introduce me to Satie and Ravel, but also to your Chiropractor and to Whole Foods!

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On Being Wounded by Injustice: A Response to Stephen Hicks

Stephen Hicks offers this analysis (a few weeks back) of being wounded by racist talk. To be blunt, his argument strikes me as wildly off base. I’ve numbered each move in the argument for ease of reference.

(1) For someone’s opinion to hurt, you first have to value their opinion.

(2) Think of it this way: If you think someone is a moron, then you don’t value their opinion and their moronic views don’t hurt you. And racism is moronic. So why be hurt by a racist’s insults?

(3) If a baboon could talk and said you looked ugly, that would say more about the baboon than about your looks.

The entire argument turns on the truth of (1), but (1) strikes me as either misleadingly phrased or obviously false. In explaining why racist talk (or injustice generally) is wounding, the relevant issue is not the victim’s valuation of the beliefs of the perpetrator, but the expectations we all bring to human relations. As a basic background fact, when we deal with others, we expect them to show us a certain minimally decent degree of respect for our humanity. When they violate this expectation, they wound us, and we feel pain.

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AUMF 2001 and the Militarization of the American Mind

This article mostly chronicles good news, but one sentence in it deserves to be memorialized and savored for expressing the nonsensical essence of American foreign policy in 32 economical words.

“Unlike declarations of a major conflict like World War II, authorizations for use of force are typically intended for limited use for a specific mission or region like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

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